Learning Swift coding on iOS and Xcode

Using Xcode and Learning Swift coding

In the past I’ve bought books and courses to learn how to code for iOS and for the Mac. I wasn’t terribly successful and I really couldn’t get my head around using Objective-C. So when Apple announced the Swift programming language and showed how much easier it would be learning Swift coding than to use Objective-C, I was delighted. Again I got access to a course to learn Swift not long after it had been announced, but I never got very far with it either. So now Apple have announced another way to learn Swift coding with Swift Playgrounds. It looks amazing and it’s got to be simple because it’s aimed at children under the banner of “Everyone Can Code”. I haven’t got to use or play with this way of learning to code yet because it’s only available if you use the beta version of iOS. I have in the past tried to use a beta version of the iOS operating system and I didn’t like the experience very much. I am going to be patient and wait until the full version of iOS 10 becomes available in the autumn. What can I do the meantime for learning Swift coding?

Learning Swift coding

Learning Swift coding using TapCoding

The application TapCoding was mentioned in a podcast as being a good way to learn Swift. The podcaster said it was a step further on from Swift Playgrounds in terms of the age range it’s aimed at. This is absolutely correct in that it’s aimed at adults, but it’s still very easy to follow. It is an application to use on the iPad or iPhone. I found it’s been useful to go over a lesson a second time, but inputting the code into Xcode instead. This way you get to see the difference between entering code on the Mac as opposed to typing code into an iOS application. I’ve been using the on-screen keyboard which on the iPad is an improvement over the keyboards on the smaller iPads. It’s still not quite the same as using a mechanical full-size keyboard when learning Swift coding. The other thing with using Xcode for typing in Xcode is that you get to see the syntax colouring for Swift. This makes it easier to see which parts of the code are which. You also get help from Xcode to enter variable and constant names. You only have to start typing in the name of a variable and the application Xcode offers you the named variables. It saves a lot of time in keying in the code and stops code being broken due to a typo in a name. Xcode also gives you information on screen if you’ve made a mistake. Sometimes the information you get is a little bit cryptic but at least it gives you an idea where you’ve gone wrong.

Tapcoding Learning Swift coding

Doing the TapCoding lessons a second time is a good learning experience. Well worth typing the code into the proper coding application on the Mac. Repetition is a good idea for learning anything and there have been things I’ve learned on the second go around. I might even do a couple of the modules a third time to make sure the concepts go in my long term memory.

Xcode playgrounds for learning Swift

App development in swiftI downloaded a book from Apple called App Development with Swift. This book has also been useful for me to learn how to code and I found links to download a swift playground. The Swift playground within Xcode gave instructions on how to do certain things with code. These were lessons within the Xcode itself. The good thing about the playground is being able to see the results of your coding in an area to the right side of the screen. It’s this part of Xcode I’ve been using to type in the lessons from TapCoding that I’ve been following on the iPad.

It’s possible to go a long way through the TapCoding course without paying any money. All you have to do is to have a streak of a certain number of days learning to code with the application and the next modules are unlocked ready for you. I decided it was well worth the €9.99 to pay for the full access to the course so if I wanted to take a day off I’d be able to. Even so, it is a good idea to work on these things daily to reinforce the learning processes. There were occasions where I had to redo one of the modules just so I could unlock the next module in the course. Repetition is good for moving the information from the short term memory to the long-term memory.

When will I hit the coding roadblock

There always comes a point when there’s a roadblock when learning to code. At least that’s how it seemed to me so far. Either I didn’t learn the basics well enough, which is possible. Or I just got to a point where the lesson expected me to understand concepts which hadn’t been explained. It was of those stumbling blocks where I felt I’d need to actually be in a classroom with a teacher who could be asked what needed to be done next. I think that some teachers of programming in the books are so deeply into what they know how to do intuitively, they forget what it’s like to be a beginner. I haven’t got that bad feeling yet using TapCoding, so I’m still feeling quite hopeful.

What to do with Mac and iOS coding

When you consider there are thousands and thousands of applications available to download or buy on the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store, you’d wonder if there was anything left to be done. Are there any ideas left to develop into applications for either the Mac or for iOS? I suppose there will always be the bespoke requirements for applications for specific businesses. We don’t need any more photo filter applications, Twitter clients or ways to organise our things to do in an application. Yet, still the computer companies, schools and business are recommending people should learn how to code. Most of the things I want to do with a computer I only have to find the right application and the job is done. I’m going to have to get my thinking cap on and see if there are specific requirements I would need in an application and then find out if I could make it. Maybe I could make an application which would take over from the scripting type of coding I’ve done using Editorial app on the iPhone. I’ve used Launch Centre Pro on iOS to give me buttons I only need to press once to complete an action. It would be nice to have that all in one bespoke application. I could save myself a couple of button presses and make it a little bit more attractive and functional in use.

An explosion of coding due to Everyone Can Code

I have heard a number of people say they’re incredibly interested in using Swift Playgrounds on the iPad. It does look quite amazing and gives a tactile approach to learning Swift coding. Swift Playgrounds application is probably the first step into providing iOS users with the means necessary to do all the coding required to make new apps on iOS. The application might be aimed primarily at kids, but I know many adults have expressed an interest. It seems it might be possible also to take code created from within the Swift Playgrounds app and move it into Xcode. You’ll then be able to make real applications using that iOS created code.

What do you think? Are you going to be learning Swift coding?

Put something in the comments below if you’re thinking of having a go with coding now that Swift is coming of age. Will you be champing at the bit to get your hands on Swift Playgrounds when becomes available in the autumn? I can’t wait to get into learning Swift coding

Posted in Mac20Q.

Buying iMac or a MacBook

Wizardgold Mac OS news

The other day I was thinking that I would round up as much money as I possibly could and by myself a new iMac. Regards buying iMac, the one I have is mostly working pretty good and not giving me too much trouble. There were some weird happenings and in the end I managed to pin it down to a malfunctioning trackpad. I love using the trackpad much more than using a mouse. It hasn’t been much fun over the last few days having to use a mouse again. I have ordered the new trackpad and I would have liked to buy the new Magic trackpad 2, but I know it won’t work on this computer. This iMac doesn’t have the latest version of Bluetooth, so I had to make do with the older trackpad. I was looking at the Apple website to buy the trackpad and couldn’t do that, in the end I had to buy it from Amazon. Apple only sells the new version it seems. The main benefit to having a new iMac would be a slightly faster processor. I was thinking along the lines of spending the extra to have the i7 processor. It’s worth spending that extra bit of cash as the processor is something you can’t update later. Unless you buy a whole new computer that is! I did look at the prices of the refurbished models and there were some with a discount of around €300 or €400. The amount of the discount reduced slightly when you take into account having to add the new Magic trackpad 2 to the cost. It will also be nice to have the latest Apple Bluetooth keyboard to go with it too. As far as the hard disk is concerned I was looking at the 2 TB fusion drive although I do prefer to run my operating system from an SSD. I’d still be able to run from the SSD I have at the moment via Thunderbolt. So I decided to forget the refurbished Mac computers.

buying iMac

Buying the right Apple Mac – Buying iMac?

For most of the time I am just using the iMac for writing, using DragonDictate. I do one or two things using Affinity Photo or Affinity Designer. Now and then I’m using Final Cut Pro, although not as much as I have used it in previous years. So I kind of wondered if I really needed to go for the top-of-the-line iMac. Would I be able to get away with a cheaper Mac desktop computer. When I started pricing how it would work out for a Mac Mini I ended up upgrading the basic model to a price approaching the iMac price. It got close enough that I went back to the idea of getting an iMac rather than a Mac Mini.

Dragon AnywhereThe next thought I had was the possibility of getting the incredibly thin MacBook. If the processor was up to using DragonDictate I thought maybe it could be just the job as a personal computer for me. I’d leave the iMac I already have as my Mac for the more heavy duty computing. I could have it as a shared computer for my wife who is using Final Cut Pro more than I am these days. It’s a shame I can’t use my iPad Pro to do the Dragon dictation. The difference between Siri dictation and Dragon dictation is quite large and does mean a Mac is needed for me. I do use Siri dictation quite a lot and it works great when I have 4G connection through my iPhone. It doesn’t work so great when I’m using my slow Internet connection at home. There is the new Dragon Anywhere but it’s not available here in Spain. I did try to get it to work with a version I downloaded from the UK App Store. There’s a monthly payment to use the application. My not having a credit card registered in the UK with my UK Apple ID put a stop to that idea. I did have the notion I could go 99% for mobile computing. It worked very well for two weeks when my Mac was getting fixed. However, there are still one or two things for which I really do prefer having a large screen in front of me. In fact I prefer to have two large 27 inch monitors to view. So the MacBook I decided would be underpowered for my needs and that left me considering the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.

In considering the notebook computers – the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro I still felt like it was encroaching on what I do with my iPad Pro. I consider my Apple computing to be a complete system. This is because I can open my iPhone, my iPad or my desktop computer and have access to whatever I want to work on. The only thing that changes is my personal situation in terms of location and availability to Apple device. When I’m at work I can add posts into my websites easily either from my iPhone or from the iPad. I can add entries into my Day One journal. It’s super quick and easy to add a couple of hundred words into a journal entry with Siri dictation. Okay, so it’s not quite as good as using Dragon dictation, but it’s good enough. It’s all going into the one big computing bucket into which I can dip into to do my computer stuff.

There are some iOS applications, better, easier and maybe even more powerful than macOS applications. Easier because you have the tactile computing of actually touching the screen and making things happen. Better and more powerful because often these applications have one job and they do that one job really well. It may be necessary to move from one application to another to complete a full task and once you get used to that way of working it is the best method. The way to look at it, is to see the iOS device as the tool and all the applications as just part of a complete system. For example, when working on an image it’s simple to send results from one application into another using the – Open In – command. All you have to do is to daisychain the process until you get to your finish point.

At the end of the thinking and wondering process, what next?

Maybe I wasted the three or four hours I spent researching Apple Mac computers and prices thinking about buying iMac. My iMac is still working great and just needs to have the trackpad replaced. Unless I spend quite a lot of money I’m not going to see a huge upgrade from what I have already. Despite this, there is the allure of a faster processor and the gorgeous retina screen on the newer iMac models. So I’m still tempted to sell one or two of my bitcoin, which have gone up in value considerably during the last month. This would give me the necessary funds to get me the iMac I want, rather than the Apple Mac computer I perhaps need. Some people like to spend their money on smoking and drinking and I don’t do either activities. Some people like to spend their money on fast cars and I’m quite happy with my Renault Clio even though it doesn’t have Apple Car Play. Mind you, that’s something else I was looking at, the replacement in car entertainment systems that have Apple Car Play. There’s not enough car manufacturers at the moment putting Car Play systems in as default as yet. My next car will have to have Apple Car Play and I also prefer it to be an electric car. I wonder if the Nissan Leaf will have Car Play?

Apple Car Play

Then of course there is the iPhone 7 coming soon

In September or October they will see the latest iPhone hitting the stores. By then my iPhone will be two years old and it could be time to do the upgrade. Last year I bought my wife the iPhone 6S and she’s delighted with it. The larger version of the iPhone is quite tempting for me also. Perhaps the iPhone 7 is when I should be thinking about in terms of spending some money in the autumn of this year. I want to be able to afford the new iPhone as well as a new iMac. The line has to be drawn somewhere and maybe I will still be buying iMac instead of something else.

Posted in Mac20Q.

macOS Sierra is coming to town

macOS Sierra is coming

The big news of the new Mac operating system – macOS Sierra is that we are getting Siri, our favourite personal assistant to help us do our stuff. From what I saw in the Keynote video from WWDC you just have to press a button and Siri will start listening. Maybe it’s the same button as used at the moment to have Siri dictation on your Mac, the function key. Apple showed off the Siri on the Mac being used to search for folders in Spotlight. It was possible to make a search and then to further refine the search just using your voice. By pressing the plus button the search gets saved to the notifications which looked handy if you need to get to the same search results again. It did look quite interesting the fact that you can drag an image which has been found in this manner from the notifications into a document.

macOS Sierra - Siri

One of the ideas is that you’re multitasking by using Siri. You have something else you’re working on already or maybe you’re just using the Messages application. Press the button and ask Siri to do something and you have minimal interruption to whatever you were doing before. Some of these things I can do already using DragonDictate, but I suppose it will be nice to have it built into the operating system. With it being integrated like that it’ll work better with a wider variety of applications. Already when I’m using the Messages application I can dictate the message and then say “Send message” and the message is sent as if it was magic. Siri on the Mac will do much more than I can do with DragonDictate because I can ask it to show me my photos from yesterday. I can even ask specific questions like “Show me all the files I shared with Victoria last week”. I can already tell my computer to open applications for me or to close them using DragonDictate. What is extra with having Siri available is that I can ask questions such as what is the weather in a particular location. I can ask for information my computer doesn’t know but the internet and Siri does.

Improvements to the Photos app

Long lost memories resurfacing in Photos

Google users already know about being offered a display of photos from a particular period in time. Facebook have done something similar with a slideshow of your photos from the previous year. The problem they had with that was when some people had a particularly bad year and ended up been shown pictures of dead friends and funerals. With this sort of improvement in the Photos App it should go a little better and in the example provided at the Keynote it included short clips of movies as well as photos. With Memories we can be reminded and we can rediscover special moments from hidden corners of our photo library. That could be quite a good thing so we have a second viewing of our life with photos. Better than the photos hiding and festering in dark corners, never to be seen again.

macOS Sierra Intelligent search in Photos

This new automatic computer generated search based upon objects within photos looks quite interesting. It promises to identify pictures of sunsets and birthday cakes as well as other types of scenes and objects. It’s a similar sort of thing to the face recognition, but more complicated. We’ll type in or ask Siri to search for pictures with a beach and this could save us quite a bit of time in having to label photos or add descriptions. It remains to be seen how clever this automated search of photographs will be. Can we ask Photos to find all our pictures of dogs for example? That’s what is promised by Apple for the Photos app.

Albums based upon places or locations

When you’re off on a trip somewhere you’re going to take a lot more photos than you would normally, Photos will create albums based on your photo expeditions. Day One the journalling application does something similar for me already so I can see all of the journal entries from a specific location on a map. Day One shows me all those entries within the map viewing area. I find it to be quite a useful capability in the application. On the map in photos you’ll see a small thumbnail photo along with a little blue dot giving you the number of photos within that album for that place. This will be handy if you want to zoom out and have a look at all the places you’ve been to take photos. Zoom in on the map to get more cartographic information. See where you were having that photo life experience.

macOS Sierra - Places

Apple Pay on the web

It looks like with macOS Sierra Apple are going to have a go at taking over from payment systems like PayPal. Some people will be happy about this because they don’t like PayPal. I’ve never had any problems with PayPal so doesn’t really bother me. Besides, we don’t yet have Apple Pay available in Spain. The good thing about Apple Pay on the web is you’ll be able to use Touch ID on your iPhone to securely pay for stuff. Or you can double-click on the side button on your Apple Watch and once again you have all the benefits of the marvellous security in the Apple Pay system. Looking forward to Apple Pay in Europe.

Auto unlock your Mac with your Apple watch

There’s already an application which will do this and I expect Auto Unlock will work by using Bluetooth LE just the same. It’s of no use to me because I don’t have Bluetooth LE on my iMac. You need access to a Mac less than about five years old. You’ll soon get used to not having to type in those passwords to gain access to your computer. It’s a nice little time-saving feature for sure. It’s not something on its own to make you update your perfectly good Mac to a newer version of hardware.

Universal Clipboard

I already have an application which gives me a Universal Clipboard across my devices. If I copy something on my Mac the application Copied sends that copied item to the clipboard of my other devices. I make use of the app quite often. Copied has other features which are useful such as named clipboards and clips management. Items you copy and paste often can be put into a named clipboard so you can get at them again easily. We don’t know yet if this Universal Clipboard has this functionality or is able to give us a list of the last 50 or 100 items copied. I could see how it would be useful to have this universal clipboard built into the system. On your iPhone you might see an image you like, just grab it and put it into a document you’re working on in Keynote or Pages on your Mac in macOS Sierra.

macOS Sierra - Universal Copy

Desktop and documents folders in iCloud drive

Some people are incredibly messy when they work on their computer and throw everything onto the desktop. I personally don’t like this and it annoys me to see a load of different types of files scattered all across the desktop. I use the application Hazel to keep my desktop clean. It automatically tidies away any files I drop onto the desktop. If you do like to work in a messy way then it could be useful to have those files also stored away on iCloud drive. The documents folder (where you should be keeping your documents anyway) as well as the desktop folder will now be accessible from all of your devices. Anything you throw into these places will automatically be stored and updated on the iCloud Drive. Maybe the previous evening you were working on a file which has been saved into your desktop folder. The next day you get to work and find you need to have the file with you. With macOS Sierra you’ll have access to that file as it will already bw synchronised to the cloud and therefore to your other devices. You just have to open up your iCloud drive on the iPhone or iPad and away you go.

Optimise Storage

You already have this facility with the Photos app. It’s particularly handy if you have a small hard drive because you’ve changed over to using an SSD. There will be no need to keep all of your files on your hard drive if you make use of the optimised storage feature in macOS Sierra. Files you haven’t used for a long time will be saved to the iCloud drive and deleted from the computer hard drive. The idea is you’ll be able to download these files just when you need them at a later stage. It seems like it could be a good idea.

macOS Sierra - optimized storage

What happens to our backups

My first thought with Optimised Storage is to wonder how this will interfere with a proper backup strategy for your data. If your files are only in one single place then you effectively have no backup. If something happens to this one file in iCloud drive then you are completely stuffed! With a proper backup strategy you should have three copies of your important files (all of them). The first one is the file you are using and is on your computer hard drive. The second copy is on a separate hard drive and the third will be off-site. Off-site could be a cloud storage solution such as iCloud Drive or Dropbox. I have to wonder how Time Machine will cope with files no longer available on the hard drive. Will there be some sort of marker on the hard drive like in photos when you have a thumbnail image in place of the actual photo. Will Time Machine make a copy of the marker or will its copy the actual file? This is something we need to find out more about before we take advantage of this new feature in macOS Sierra.

Getting rid of duplicates

Another feature of optimised storage is that it will get rid of duplicate and obsolete files. I can see that it would be useful to get rid of duplicates, especially if they are big files taking up space unnecessarily. I hope Apple have set this up so when it reminds you to delete old installers, duplicate downloads caches and logs, it won’t make a mess of things. With some applications it’s a good idea to keep a copy of the installer. This is the case with DragonDictate as you are only allowed to download the application for a short amount of time after you’ve bought it. It’s worth making a copy of the installer for DragonDictate and keeping it safe somewhere. Optimised Storage will also keep an eye on your trash and delete items that have been sitting there for over 30 days. This is something I don’t need because of using the application Hazel which already gives me that functionality. Hazel gives you fantastic tools for working with files such as renaming before moving. If you’re a power user on your Mac then I thoroughly recommend buying the application even after macOS Sierra is available.

Doing fancy stuff with Messages

macOS Sierra - big emojisOne of the big features in the keynote for macOS Sierra was improvements to the Messages application. Maybe a lot of people use Messages and will benefit from having these extra fancy ways to communicate with each other. It’s not exactly earth shattering though is it? I think it’s maybe childish to get excited by large emojis as some commentators on the Mac podcasts have done. It might be handy to have previews of links within the conversation in Messages and videos that’ll play in a little window. These things are not exactly going to set the world on fire. After you have noticed and exclaimed “Gosh that’s cool” once then you’ll just forget about it and get on with your life. Apple could have come up with something a little more interesting. What about getting the home kit Internet of things working better. I know it’s only early days, but being able to switch on and off lights in the house from Siri is not too exciting. Let’s see how the Home App on iOS performs.

We got tabs we didn’t get a better iTunes

Also not too exciting is the announcement about having tabs in other applications in macOS Sierra apart from the Finder and Safari. What is the picture in picture feature within macOS Sierra going to give us we can’t do already. Maybe we are expecting too much from a computer company. Is Apple busy working behind-the-scenes on the Apple car which really could blow everybody’s minds. Apple could have been doing something with the iTunes application which is rather bloated and unwieldy. There is the possibility there could be a number of things going on in the background of the Mac OS Sierra upgrade to make things better generally. It all could be working faster and more efficiently. All these little changes being made to small parts of the operating system could have an overall worthwhile benefit to the way we do things with our computers. We’ll see in autumn when it is released.

Moaning App Developers

Despite my moaning about the lack of exciting new major improvements to the Mac OS things are going in the right direction. The developers of third-party applications are getting the proper encouragement and tools to use and maybe that’s where we’ll see things moving forward. There have been complaints by developers about how the Mac App Store works with regards how difficult it is to have people find their applications. There are a huge number of apps, some of them absolutely fantastic. With so many applications then there are certainly apps that are a complete load of rubbish too. No wonder sometimes it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff!

Still looking forward to macOS Sierra

I might be getting a little bit weary about the slow pace of improvements to my computing life. Maybe I have unreasonable expectations. I don’t know what I even expect to come from my favourite computer platforms. I know it has to be more substantial than bigger emoji icons and fancy graphics in Messages. Is it an improvement if we can converse without using proper language. Siri on the Mac will be useful and it is about time too. It is still all about the Apple system and most new features on the Mac are mirrored on the iOS devices too. We’ll have an Apple computer experience whether using the Mac, iPhone or iPad. I’ll be updating as soon as the macOS Sierra is made available publicly. I will not be using the beta versions as I only have one Mac. It isn’t a good idea to use betas just to get the latest version early. There will be bugs in the betas and I’m happy to let others find them and help get rid of them.

Posted in Mac20Q.

Apple System and Talking to Your Computer

Do it with the Mac or do it with iOS?

These days I think using Apple gear makes you an Apple System user rather than being either a Mac or an IOS person. It all comes together by having access to whatever you do on all of your systems. It really doesn’t matter whether you want to write, work with photos, create audio, make movies or whatever. You do what you want to do wherever you want to do it. Once you have the digital content started you can move to whichever other device whenever you want. I recently wrote a nearly 3000 word article for my NoStylus website and much of it was done using my iOS devices. I was mobile for most of the time and therefore used my iPad and iPhone to dictate the text using Siri dictate. I would have liked to use DragonDictate, but Dragon Anywhere is not yet available in Spain. During the three days I was working on this article, for some of it I was at home in my office in front of my iMac. I only added one paragraph to the article using DragonDictate. I had already done most of it with iOS. Editing is okay on the iPad, but I find the iPhone a little too small for that type of work. Even so, I prefer to do the editing part of the job using my iMac so I can use applications such as Hemingway and Pro-Writing aid. I ended up doing about 75% of the editing on my Mac. That’s just one example of the Starship Enterprise type system where you talk to your computer by whatever means. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the bridge communing with the main computer direct or if you are using the tricorder device attached to your clothing. One huge computer Apple System and multiple points of entry.

Hemingway app - Apple System

Publishing with WordPress – Mac or iOS?

I have a particularly useful plug-in for SEO on the website and to best use it I have to go through the Safari browser. In my Apple system, this works best on the Mac, but is not too bad on the iPad. If I publish using the WordPress application on iOS I don’t get access to my plug-ins. A good way around this little problem is to get the text into WordPress as a draft using the WordPress application. Then I can go and do the further editing and make use of the plug-in via the web browser.

Oh! The joys of slow internet. One day I’ll have more than 6mb download speed.

At home I have rubbish Internet for my Apple System. The download speed is really slow and the upload speed is diabolical. I’m only getting about 6 MB down, but when I’m at work and I have 4G access with my iPhone I can upload and download much faster. So I prefer to upload pictures to my blog postings using iOS because I can do it so much faster. I prefer to have the bigger screen of my iPad Pro rather than just using the iPhone. My iPad Pro doesn’t have a SIM slot so I connect to the Internet using the iPhone as my Personal Hotspot. This works very well indeed and saves some money by being able to buy a cheaper version of the iPad.

Apple System - Personal Hotspot

Using the Apple iMac in your Apple System

My iMac has the 27 inch screen and I have another 27 inch screen connected to it. Sometimes my desktop in the office even looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! If I could fit on another 27 inch screen and have three in front of me, I probably would do so. I also wouldn’t mind having one of those extra widescreen monitors that sometimes come with a curved screen. Having a lot of screen real estate makes my Apple iMac great for editing video in Final Cut Pro X. It’s also fantastic for editing photos just because you see so much more on the big screen. It’ll be even better when I upgrade to the iMac with the retina screen resolution. Perhaps next year, the iMac I have now is still working great, now I have the hard drive fixed. On OSX you don’t get the tactile experience of working with a photo that you get while touching the screen of the iPad. So sometimes it is better to work with photos on the iPad, especially if I want to do some editing where using the Apple pencil is going to help me do a better job. Some editing processes lend themselves to the tactile approach and others need the big beautiful screen.

Having more storage space on the iMac

I have a 1 TB drive inside the iMac and two 3 TB drives connected externally. One of these is a Thunderbolt drive and the other is USB. The Thunderbolt drive is for use while I’m working on documents or whatever and the other driver is there only as a backup. I have an automated backup occur every day at 11:30 PM using the application Super Duper. It makes a clone of the Thunderbolt drive and then the app shuts itself down. I have another 2 TB drive which is used for Time Machine and another USB connected hard drive toaster. This is a device in which I can plug in bare drives and I use this for weekly backups of the Thunderbolt connected start-up drive which is a 500 GB SSD drive. It would have been nice to put the SSD inside the iMac but it was too much hassle and using Thunderbolt is just as fast. Backup and more back up is the mantra for my computers.

Apple System - Drives connected

Drives on my iMac

Paying for space on iCloud for storage

In my personal Apple system to protect my photo library I have my photos stored in iCloud. I have only recently set this up, the computer is in the process of uploading my photo library to iCloud and it’s taking forever. This is because the upload speed of my Internet is less than one megabyte. There are times when I would consider moving house so I could live somewhere where I’d have fast Internet. I just have to be patient and wait for all of the files to get up there. I’ve set my devices to optimise for storage. This means that I have a thumbnail version of the file on the device and the actual file is downloaded from the cloud whenever I want to do some work. It can sometimes be a little bit tedious when I’m on a slow Internet connection and I have to wait for a download. With the iPhone I have the 64 GB model and I’m thinking I may have to upgrade when I get the iPhone 7 to 128 GB. I tend to have a lot of applications on my iOS devices and it burns up a lot of storage space very quickly. It’s got so bad that I’ve just had to delete all the music of the phone. That’s not really a problem as I tend to listen to podcasts before I listen to any music anyway.

Automation on Mac and iOS

There are a good number of Apple system automation possibilities for the Mac. I have Better Touch Tool, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro and Alfred added to the standard availability of Automator and Apple Script. It’s amazing the number of things you can do with Keyboard Maestro and it is far easier to use than Automator. I have just upgraded to the latest version of Alfred and there has been overhaul of the workflows set up within the application. I didn’t have too many workflows in there before I upgraded, but I plan to try a few different ones out in the new version. Basically, when it comes down to it, you can automate just about everything with your Mac with various automation tools and coding. The situation for creating automation is on the iOS platform side of the Apple system has improved greatly. If you have any interest at all in automation on iOS then you have to get yourself the Workflow application and Launch Center Pro. I do quite a few automations using the text application Editorial. Editorial is from the same people who made Pythonista which allows you to code Python on you. Many iOS users want to see a form of Xcode on iOS and it seems right to be able to make iOS apps on iOS itself.

Better Touch Tool

It is the job of our computers in our Apple system to make our lives easier. There is nothing quite so sweet as typing in a shortcut key code and things magically happening saving you a lot of time. If you have a lot of automations with shortcut keys you do have to have a good way to remember what they are. When you are using TextExpander you do at least get reminders to help you commit these shortcuts into your memory. If you are using Better Touch Tool it’s probably a good idea to start with a small selection of gestures and commit them to your muscle memory. Add to the small selection little by little to increase the number of items as you go. Use the same sort of process when you’re trying to remember all of your keyboard shortcuts for Keyboard Maestro and Alfred.

Hey Siri – Talking to your Mac as well as your iOS devices

It’s highly likely in Mac OS X there will be an update to give a Siri on the Mac. We’ll be able to control our computer on our Apple system by talking to it. It won’t be like that embarrassing scene in the Star Trek movie where they go back in time. Scotty tries to talk to a computer to get it to do something, gets no response and has to resort to using a keyboard. They must have studied the history files about what computers used to be like in order to know what to do! I doubt he would have had a decent typing speed as he wouldn’t divide the muscle memory we have for typing. Hollywood glossed over that as it would have been too painful to watch Scotty doing the peak and poke style of typing.

Apple System - Talking to Siri

Embarrassment and privacy with your Apple system and Siri

When you’re on your own with your computer you don’t feel self conscious about talking to it. Some people don’t seem too self-conscious talking to their iOS devices using Siri all out in public. Whether or not you feel embarrassed about talking to your computer there is the problem when other people are listening, as your privacy could be compromised. Do you really want to have everyone know when you’re asking Siri to show you the latest website about puppies wearing hats? It certainly won’t be a good idea to say out aloud your passwords as you enter protected parts of the Internet. The other thing about talking to your computer is that it’s okay when you’re on your own in a room, but if everybody in a large room wants to talk to their computer at the same time it could get very noisy. At that point the computer is going to have to be very good at hearing just your voice and nobody else’s. Maybe if talking to the computer does become a thing there will be a change from open plan offices back to single use spaces. Maybe what we really need for our Apple system is to have a neural connection between our brain and our computer. All we will need to do is to think whatever we want our computer to do and hey presto!

Posted in Mac20Q.

Great to have the iMac back on the desk

Is really good to have my Mac back on the desk and available for use. I was able to use it for about two weeks. The hard disk was replaced after it failed. When it first failed it wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t making any noise but when I started making funny noises I had to get the new hard disk put in there. I went to the Apple Store in Barcelona and it took a week to get the job done. During that time I was an iOS warrior. My primary computer was my 12.7 inch iPadPro and a very close secondary computer was the iPhone. I really enjoyed the reliance upon the mobile computing for the two weeks. I wrote a whole series of posts based on my experience over at NoStylus. Because I was writing a daily post on my experiences I knew that using iOS mobile computing even more than I would do otherwise. The thing I missed mostly was the DragonDictate, otherwise known as Dragon for Mac version 5. Despite missing the accuracy and speed with which I can dictate using DragonDictate I was able to do a lot of dictation using Siri. I found Siri works best when I was using a 4G connection on my devices. I got pretty good accuracy even when I was using the iPad via the hotspot from the iPhone. Later in the post I talk about the Amazon Echo.

On my return to OS X computing

Even before my vacation from OS X to the world of post PC mobile computing I had been using iOS quite a lot. Quite often I could go for a good part of the morning without having to switch on the iMac. I actually prefer to do my email triage on the iPad or iPhone. I use the application called Spark and it’s particularly easy to archive or delete emails just with a swipe. While I’m having a cup of tea and my breakfast in the morning I can quickly and easily get through my emails, Twitter and Facebook checking. Any input required is easily done using Siri dictation or a little bit of glass tapping keyboard action. Regarding the Syrian dictation, there were a couple of long blog posts of over 1000 words completely dictated using Siri dictation. As I said before, the accuracy was pretty amazing. Whether you are typing, using Siri dictation or using DragonDictate there’s going to be a round of editing after the first draft has been completed. Whichever way you look at it, dictation is the fastest way to write.

The future is in artificial intelligence

There are rumours at the moment that Siri is going to be coming to the OS X platform, probably in the announcements they make and WW DC. Having Siri as your virtual assistant is useful and interesting. It’s also interesting to have a look at other artificial intelligence systems such as the Amazon Echo and the soon to be properly released Google Home. Apple doesn’t want to be left behind and there are now rumours surfacing today about an updated Apple TV we shall give a similar facilities as you find with the Echo and with the Google Home devices. Who knows? These are only rumours and possibly only wishful thinking from the Apple fan boys, enthusiasts. The two weeks before the Apple worldwide developers conference does get kind of crazy with all of the daft rumours spread by the Apple bloggers. I prefer to wait and see what Apple gives us on the actual days of the keynote. It’s a waste of effort and time to read, discuss or give any credence whatsoever to any of these rumours.

Amazon Echo

I have recently done my first Raspberry Pi project which allowed me to set it up as a home-made Amazon Echo. There were some limitations and the main one being that you can’t have it listening all of the time as the Amazon Echo does. The other limitation is that the information is largely based in the USA as that’s where the actual device has been released. Amazon can’t be bothered to send it to other parts of the world. Because of this it’s not really worth making any comparisons between Siri and what you get with the Amazon Echo. It’ll be interesting to see how wide the spread will be for the Google Home product. The great thing about Siri is that it is available in an awful lot of countries. It is very clear with these products coming to market that artificial intelligence is the direction in which we are heading. Will be out to use our computers in the same manner as they do on Star Trek. All we’ll need to do is to talk to a computer to get it to our bidding. It’s not going to matter whether we are talking to the large mainframe computer based on the  starship  Enterprise, otherwise known as home or if we are using one of our mobile devices such as our iPhone or an iPad. The computer systems are getting far better at speech to text conversion and so therefore getting better at answering our questions and giving us intelligent answers. Will you get an Amazon Echo if they become available in your part of the world?
Raspberry Pi getting ready to be an Echo

Posted in News.

Getting the best experience OSX and a Mac

Enjoying the iMac Desktop Computer

Dragon AnywhereIt was a great opportunity to have the Post PC Experience and to be an iOS Warrior for 13 days. I did all my computing on the iPad and iPhone, but now I am back with a full Apple system. I am left wondering what is the best experience OSX and Mac for me? My data is accessible across all of my devices through iCloud and other cloud services to my iMac, the iPad Pro and the iPhone. I can put in and take out data no matter what I’m doing. The best thing for me now is that I’m again using DragonDictate for most of my writing. Late at night I do have to go back to the manual typing on a keyboad, so I don’t wake up the wife with my chatting to the computer. I have thought about having a MacBook I could use upstairs out of earshot. It could be rather handy to have a MacBook again; I gave the previous Macbook to my son. I will have to check to see if the processor in the new super slim Macbooks is sufficient for the job of dictating. Maybe I would be better off with a Mac Book Air instead. What would be lovely, would be Dragon Dictate on the iPad. Nuance now have Dragon Anywhere but it is not yet available here in Spain. Also, it’s too expensive at $15 per month. There should certainly be a discount to users of the Dragon for Mac considering how much We’ve already spent on that software.

Could do most of what I wanted on the iPad and iPhone

What can I ask Siri

iOS multitasking is certainly possible on the iPad. I was feeling a little hemmed in a couple of times with the screens on the smaller devices. Not surprising considering I spread my stuff out across two 27in screens normally. I wanted to get into the WordPress installation on the iPhone, but I couldn’t do it. Maybe I will try again and put the url in the top of the screen direct to the log in page. That might just work, where trying to get to the log in menu on the mobile version of my web sites didn’t work. It’s surprising sometimes how well Siri dictation works. I have written articles of 800 – 1000 words quickly and easily with Siri. I found it works much better when I have a fast 4G connection on the phone. I also use the Personal Hotspot to connect the ipad to the internet through the phone. Having a SIM card in the iPad would be better but it does mean paying out extra bills monthly for the data.

The newest, fastest, latest and greatest best experience OSX

best experience OSXOne of the things I’d like to have a new Mac for, is the new Bluetooth in the latest Macs. With this you can have the latest Magic Keyboard and Magic trackpad. The keyboard isn’t much different from the Bluetooth keyboard I’m using at present, but the Magic Trackpad is larger. It’s been nearly 5 years now I’ve been using the trackpad full-time and I couldn’t imagine going back to using a mouse. It would have to be a good thing to have a slightly larger trackpad available to use. Even so, this by itself is not enough for me to want to upgrade the computer I have. What would be more interesting would be having a much faster processor. When or if I do get a new iMac I will pay out the extra to get the faster processor available go for the i7 instead of the i5. The other thing I want is a larger SSD inside the computer. With the repair I just had done to my iMac, I had to have an exact replacement of the hard drive. This means inside the computer I’m still stuck with a 1 TB spinning drive. I did ask Apple Store Barcelona if they would put in the SSD I am booting from through Thunderbolt, but they just wouldn’t do it. The only possibility was to go through a third-party repairer or do it myself. I have taken an iMac apart before, just didn’t fancy doing it this time.

The new retina screens on the iMac are absolutely amazing for the best experience OSX. When using this computer I don’t really notice any lack of quality. When you go to the store and see the computers side-by-side, some with retina and some without, you really can see the difference. On the subject of screens, at the moment I have a 27 inch extra monitor which works at a low resolution to the iMac itself. If I had a newer retina screened iMac I would certainly notice the big difference between the two screen resolutions. It can be handy to have the second screen with a lower resolution. When I just want to see the same thing but bigger I can move it to the second screen. I have seen it’s now possible to get the ultrawide screen and is possible to get them around about 32 inches in size. Some of them are even curved, although not as much as they wrap around you. I wonder how it would be to have one of those screens connected to a Mac Mini. The idea of buying a Mac Pro is a complete nonstarter. They haven’t been upgraded since they were introduced and I don’t think I would get the benefits of such a computer.

Twist or stick for best experience OSX

Considering the post PC experiment with the iOS devices went so well, I’m thinking I will stick with this iMac for at least two more years. That is unless Apple come out with something completely amazing before then to improve the best experience OSX. I’m not sure that’s very likely seeing as they are more interested in the mobile computer market at the moment. Who knows, they might also be getting distracted by the rumoured Apple Car. So I plan to tuck away some cash month by month to have a fund for getting the next computer. It might be a MacBook Air or even a MacBook which is good for the writing end of things. It’s just as likely that I could twist again for a new iMac. There is a good chance this autumn there will be new iMacs available. How about a finger print reader on new Macs – Good for security! Let’s just have a think about what might be coming and try to be patient. In any case, it is true to say that after being an iOS only person for two weeks my views regarding my OSX computer needs have changed.

Posted in Mac20Q.

Another trip to Barcelona Apple Store 

iMac Happy Days

I got a notice yesterday to say that the iMac is ready to pick up. The Genius in the store did say it would be ten days first of all. I told him I would need to collect in seven days as I only get one day off each week. He said he would try for me…

The soonest I can go and collect it is going to be on Tuesday but I don’t mind waiting until Wednesday. It’s always good when a company will underpromise and over deliver. It makes for happy customers when you get something earlier than you expected. So I will have another trip to Barcelona on Wednesday.

To be honest if it hadn’t been ready I wouldn’t have been too unhappy. I’m doing great using the iPad in a Post PC experience. Missing the Dragon Dictation but still dictating with Siri. Just about everything else I want to do I can do with iOS. I have embraced a post-PC experience and enjoyed being are you iOS warrior. I have had to learn how to do a couple of things a little bit differently. The thing is, it has been different but it hasn’t been more difficult. I have found that on many occasions using the iPad keeps you a more personal experience and is therefore better.

Will I buy a new iMac?

It’s quite easy to lust after the gorgeous brilliant lovely large screens of the iMac. The high resolution and the brilliance of the display and colour really look appealing. Something like that would be really brilliant for doing a photography and video work. I do have to ask myself do I really need it in terms of my willingness to spend 2,500 Euro to buy the iMac I would want. The iMac I have now does a decent job of working with video and photos. I could see that as a shared computer for myself and my wife. Then I could do most of what I want to do, perhaps on a MacBook or more likely on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. I would probably end up spending a little bit less money. How close would I have to get to the cost of a new iMac with using something else before I would say – Oh well, I’ll buy an iMac anyway. My present iMac is nearly 5 years old and still working great. Perhaps the best approach will be to keep it running for as long as possible and to put aside some cash ready for the next computer. Then in about two or even three years time I would have a nice sum of money to help me make the choice of which computer to buy next. Sounds like a plan!

Posted in Mac20Q.

Hard Drive Problems were sorted 

I had to take a trip to the Apple Store in Barcelona to get the Hard Drive fixed. My initial fix worked Ok but then after a week it didn’t. The drive started to make a horrible clicking noise like the evil plants out of Day of the Triffids, followed by a terrible scratching sound. In the end it was so bad I had to turn the computer off. Then when I turned it back on again the fans started up and as well as the sound of the Triffids I also had the helicopter coming in to land. SO I had to make the decision to go Post PC. I have since decided that it is not ‘Post’ PC – but ‘More’ or ‘Extra’ PC. Seeing as PC stands for Personal computing and not Political correctness, when you use the iPad and iPhone as your personal computers you can’t help but go deeper into personal – Hence the More or Extra being better descriptions to use.

Apple Store. Barcelona

More Personal Computer Experience

The hard drive properly gave up the ghost on the Thursday and I don’t have a day off until on Wednesday that was nearly a weeks worth of going all in on the iOS computing. I was told by the genius in Barcelona that it would take ten days and I pushed him to try for one week, seeing as I only get time off work on Wednesdays. I will have about 13 days of no Mac and maybe longer than that if they don’t make the one week deadline. At least it will be better than the month they took to fix the previous iMac. In any case the Genius guy at the Apple Store was friendly and professional when dealing with me and I think he will do his best to get the job done for me. In some ways I don’t mind having to keep with the More PC Experience / Extra PC experience for the nearly three weeks total. I will surely miss the use of Dragon Dictate and one or two other apps but I am enjoying the challenge of working with only iOS.

There are some weird things

  • I’m using the WordPress app to post this and it is mostly working OK. There isn’t a button on the row of extra buttons to set a headline? There’s buttons for inserting images, making text bold, italics, making links, lists and quotes, but I have to go to the html editor to add the header tags manually.
  • When I use Byword for the blogging, sometimes it works great and other times not so much. I couldn’t get it to upload the pictures in the publishing section today even though it worked OK before. 
  • Blogsy interface is just plain weird.
  • Blogo is great if you only want to use on one web site and the interface still has moments of weirdness.
  • Using Ulysses is mostly OK but today the behaviour of the app was strange for adding images or links. Not way to get to the code to make the changes due to the application misbehaving. Unless I exported to html and rolled my sleeves put to do some fixing manually. I wonder if it will be sorted out when the next version gives us the WordPress publishing capabilities.

Banking works well

I opened up the banking app and got into my accounts and it offered to let me use the fingerprint recognition as the way to get in.The app has improved since I used it last. I was quite impressed with it.

Downloading TV shows on hold

I can watch what I have copied onto the iPad and then use AirPlay to send them to the TV. Means I can’t use the iPad for anything else while watching the TV. Ah well – Have to take it easy sometimes…

It can be a better experience

Once I have got into the different ways of doing things I will be happier. The way of working could be actually better than the desktop PC way of working. I have managed to write, using Siri dictation followed by editing using the keyboard in Ulysses. Written quite a few words altogether. I’ve also connected the Mac Blusetooth keyboard so I have the mechanical connection to the iPad. Siri dictation into the iPad works a treat over 4G and then I can open the words in the iPad apps to edit and tidy up. Now one week has been done and I’ve more days to do before the iMac is returned to the desk in the office.A positive experience so far!

Posted in Uncategorized.

Missing the Mac

I’m really going to miss DragonDictate

Just about every think else I can do okay with my iPad Pro and my iPhone. I do have some dictation available with Siri dictation. It isn’t a patch on the sort of accuracy and speed you get with Dragon Dictate. I use Dragon for Mac version number five. I didn’t like it much when changing from version four, But after a couple of small a great day it’s got a lot better. I had been used to using a text based application for all of the dictation and then doing a copy and paste into where I actually wanted the text. Now I tend to dictate directly into Ulysses. I would be quite happy to go completely post they say if it wasn’t for the DragonDictate. Mind you, there are other Mac applications I would miss also. One of the other applications I would miss a lot is Affinity Photo.

Daisy Disk and my wife’s MacBook

The hard drive on my wife’s computer was all used up and we couldn’t work out why. So I loaded up Daisy disk and I was able to find 200 GB being wasted in deleted user profiles. I have no idea how that came about in the first place. After getting rid of those files that we didn’t need any more we had some room to do some video work and everything was working perfectly.

Final Cut Library Manager

I also have an application called Final Cut Library Manager and this is able to get rid of some of the files that you don’t need within a Final Cut library. Final Cut will create stuff apart from the original files optimised files and rendered files. These can be got rid off because the application will make them again if necessary.

Cheaper SSD drives

I’m looking forward to the day when we have some really cheap SSD drives! The price has come down a huge amount already and even a 1 TB drive is not too much money. They make a huge difference for working with in terms of speed. Often it is like having a new computer compare to the spinning hard drives.

Posted in Mac20Q.

Self Publish your book with iBooks Author

Have you always wanted to self publish your book

I think I’ve always wanted to publish something. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person and I’ve always been that way. I can remember back to when I was just a kid and I thought it would be great to make my own comic and get it distributed. I sat in my bedroom drawing things and writing some words to go with them. It was only after I’d done a lot of work, but enjoyed myself in the process, I realised it wasn’t going to go much further than that. How on earth was I going to take my fun little comic book story and present it to the world. This was back before computers were invented and smart phones were not even a sparkle in Steve Jobs’s eye. It is amazingly simple if you want to self publish your book now using a Mac and your iOS devices.

Using iBooks Author

Fast forward over 40 years and things look very different for personal publishing. If you want to self publish your book or comic, create professional sounding music or a video you now have the tools to share your work and your vision. I absolutely love it that I can grab iBooks Author and put together a first-class electronic book. Apple have also given us the connections within the software to distribute to the masses with the iBookstore.

Join me and self publish your book for free

Good and Geeky BooksIt’s not just that books have become electronic and thus easy to download. A book is not just a book any more! We are not constrained by the analogue world of ink on paper. In Good and Geeky books you’ll not only find words and pictures but also video, audio and other interactivity. You just need to grab hold of the publishing opportunities now available and take that step to self publish your book. In the rest of this article I going to go over some of the details of how to use iBooks Author. I expect you to give it a try yourself and send me links to your creative output. I’d love to see what you can come up with.

Self Publish your Book with iBooks Author

It’s easy to self publish your book with iBooks Author. The application has been available now for a good few years and has seen improvements along the way. iBooks Author makes it simplicity itself to set the layout of the document to make it pretty and also easy to read. I like the way I can use the styles to set up the look for the chapter headings. With the styles you make sure that every type of text within your book is uniform throughout. It’s not good if the chapter title text is in Helvetica font in most of your book, but then changes to Times New Roman in chapter five. This sort of attention to detail is incredibly important in terms of making your book look as professional as possible. When you are self publishing you don’t have the benefits of a publishing house spending time to format the book for you. By using top quality software like iBooks Author to self publish your book people will have a hard job telling the difference between it and something from a traditional publisher.

Get Access to a full course on using iBooks Author at the end of this article. FREE!

Control your book with the iBooks Author template

You have to choose the template most suited to your book as soon as you get started with iBooks Author. You won’t be able to change the template after you have already started working on the layout of your book. It’s not difficult to change the elements of style within the template. This means you’re not stuck to using formatting within the document you don’t like. Begin by using the template which is the closest to the look of the book you require and then make the changes.

Self Publish your book

In the template chooser you have a variety of templates to get started. There are ten different landscape designs, seven different portrait template styles, an EPUB classic template and some blanks. When you’ve created a customised style and layout you can save it as a template to use again in subsequent projects. You’ll see a section at the bottom of the template chooser called My Templates.

Options within the Templates to Self Publish Your Book

When you first open a template you will see chapter 1 is already in the chapter list to the left side of the application. You get the front page of a chapter which you can change between, in this case – Chapter Photo, Chapter Introduction, Chapter Text and Preface. Under that you will see a default page in which it’s possible to change with six different options. You can go for single column, two column, single column with a pull quote or single column with a sidebar. If you want to build a totally customised page layout when you self publish your book choose the blank page. With that you’ll be able to add in text boxes, shapes, tables, charts and various sorts of widgets to your hearts content. With the style pages you choose from you’ll see there is Lorem Ipsum text in place to show you where the text will go. Same with the photos there’ll be a photo on the page you can change for one of your own. Click inside the placeholder text to select it and paste in your own words.

Getting started with iBooks Author

Getting started with iBooks Author

Create your cover and self publish your book

In the side panel of the iBooks Author application you’ll see a section entitled Book. At the top of this there is an icon looking like a book and the text Book Title. Using this is one way to quickly create a book cover. Having a book cover that stands out from the crowd and properly says what the book is about is important. It’s worth spending money on a book cover designer if you don’t have the graphic design knowledge yourself. People really do judge a book by its cover so make your cover look great. Look at book covers in the books stores to get ideas of what looks good.

How to Self publish your Book

How to Self publish your Book – Created in the iBooks Author app

The next icon down is called Intro Media. Click on this and you’ll see an icon in the main section where to drop a movie or an image into this section. If you’re making a book which is fully iBooks compatible, when your reader opens the book the movie will play or the image will be shown. This is just one of the things that makes an iBooks format ebook special and more interesting for the reader.

When setting up the book you’re planning to self publish with iBooks Author, choose a suitable image to use in the table of contents. It’s best to choose something simple and not too distracting. If you use an image that is too fussy or busy it’ll be more difficult for the reader to use the table of contents properly.

Setting up the background for the contents page

Setting up the background for the contents page

Using styles to create your self published book

The theme will give you paragraph styles, character styles and list styles. The designer of the template will have worked hard to make sure everything all works together. There’s nothing to stop you from selecting a heading and changing it to a different typeface. You have to remember the way the text looks is dependent on the style. If you make changes to a heading you will probably want to change all the same headings to look the same. Look over to the styles drawer when you have your text selected. If you make changes you will see a drop-down triangle coloured red instead of the usual black. This helps you to see where you have made changes to the style. Change the style back to the original easily or convert the style to the changes you have just made. Then everything elsewhere in the document will look exactly the same. You use the menu command in the drop-down Redefine Style from Selection. In the same drop-down menu you can tell the application to select all instances of that style within the document. A useful tool to check up styles used. These are the nuances of this application you need to learn when you are working up to self publish your book using iBooks Author.

Working with Styles in iBooks Author

Working with Styles in iBooks Author

Work on the book one chapter at a time

iBooks author is not really the application you’re going to use to do the actual writing. I suggest the best application for this will be either Scrivener or Ulysses. Scrivener is a beast of an application, but not that difficult to use once you get into it. Ulysses has a simple interface which hides a fair amount of software power behind it. Exporting out of Ulysses is pretty easy. The best way is to select the text in the preview, copy to the clipboard and then paste it into iBooks Author. If you paste it in using the standard command the text will go into the document in the body style. If you paste it in using the command – Paste and Retain Style the text goes in as free-form. With the second of the two options it looks as though the text has gone in properly styled. It hasn’t – You will still need to convert each section of text to the correct style. The main paragraphs you’ll want to change to the body style (this does depends slightly upon the template you’re using) the headings will also need to be changed. The advantage of using paste and retain style is that it is easier to see which lumps of text need to be changed to headers and possibly chapter names. If you don’t have proper authors software then use Textedit or something like Byword to type or dictate your text into. I use Dragon Dictate and write by talking, as much as possible. Ulysses is also available on the iPad.

Styling the text to headings and paragraphs

iBooks Author for Text

iBooks Author for Text

The quickest way to set the text up to the correct styles is to make sure the styles drawer is open. For each of the styles you wish to use, create a shortcut key. Then all you need to do is to put the cursor into the paragraph of text to be changed and hit your shortcut key. When you’ve set each section of text to be headings or paragraphs you can start working on other options such as the amount of space before and after a paragraph. I like to set it so that a heading will keep with the following paragraph. This is so that you don’t get a heading at the bottom of one page and the paragraph that is supposed to with, on the next page. It keeps things looking much tidier and more professional so you self publish your book more efficiently.

Get the text looking right first then add the rest.

With a novel you probably won’t have too many pictures in your document. The non-fiction work I tend to do usually requires images to help explain things. The easiest way to get a picture in your book is to drag and drop it from the Finder directly onto the page. If you decide you want to have a specific amount of space used on a page for an image you can first of all add a rectangle, or other shape to use as a place holder. Then drag and drop the picture to fill that place holder. You will then need to edit the mask to show the amount of picture you require in that shape.

You have a choice of setting the picture so it moves with the text or does not move with the text. The other option is to attach it to an anchor. After you put your picture onto the page look in the inspector panel for text wrap. This is where you set it to be inline, floating or anchored. The anchor is a little blue dot with a blue circle around it. Find the little blue dot and move it to the text you want the picture to stick to. If you add text before the anchor and the text flow moves the anchor to the next page the picture will move to. The position of the picture on the page will remain the same. It’s one way of keeping track of the images you put in the chapter so you know they are more or less in the right place. When you’re sure you’ve got everything loaded into the chapter, you may need to change the size and position of your picture. Some tweaking and fine adjustments to set it looking just right.

There are various options on how the text will flow around your images and shapes. Have the text flow to the left or to the right and you can also make it follow the contours of an irregular shape. If you’re feeling creative you might even have the text over the top of an image. You select the image and send it to the back and turn off text wrap. There are a huge number of creative options when you self publish your book using iBooks Author.

Shapes, tables, charts and widgets

Adding Widgets in iBooks Author

If you’ve chosen to work with a blank sheet you can organise the space with shapes and text boxes. Perhaps you want to choose one of the widgets to add a gallery of images. The thing to do would be to add that first and then arrange the other elements of your page around that. I love the way I can make a section of text fit just right by altering the size of an image or media widget. When the text is set to flow around those elements you can eliminate unnecessary spaces on your page. Looks good when you self publish your book ready to distribute to the iBookstore.

A gallery of photos or a Keynote presentation

At first it seemed to me there wasn’t much difference between the gallery of photos and a keynote presentation. When you’re looking at a gallery in the iBooks reader on your iPad you swipe between the images. You view either within the small area in your book layout or full screen. It’s a very similar experience when you’re using the Keynote presentation in the book. With either of these two iBooks Author widgets you just have to pinch outwards to make them go full screen. There is a slight difference in the way they are used in that with the Keynote presentation you tap on the right side of the screen to move forwards per slide. Tapping on the left side of the screen will take you backwards through the presentation. You can also make it so the presentation will automatically play when the reader reaches that part of the book. To make it more interesting edit the Keynote so you have fancy transitions from one slide to the next. It’s easy to set the amount of time a transition will take and also how long the slide will show for. It looks pretty good in your book as it adds movement and interactivity. For a younger audience this sort of effect in a book is absolutely necessary. There is also no reason at all why an older audience wouldn’t also enjoy a multimedia experience when reading. I love it! I think it looks great. If you’ve added hyperlinks to work within your Keynote presentation, they will work within iBooks. That’s another advantage of using a Keynote slideshow rather than using a photo gallery.

Add a Keynote Presentation

Add a Keynote Presentation

Adding a photo gallery is as simple as choosing it from the widgets drop-down menu. Size up the Gallery widget and position it exactly where you want it on the page. As with most of the widgets you can choose if you want to have a title for the picture gallery. Same with the caption which has the option of the same caption for all of the images or a different one for each photo. These settings are made in the Inspector window. Just drag and drop the images onto the Gallery widget and start adding your captions. In the widget panel of the inspector you may drag-and-drop to rearrange the order of the photos. It can be helpful sometimes to add thumbnails of the photos which will appear underneath the photo that is showing. For the best reader experience it’s a good idea if you work with a set of photos of more or less the same size. Choose a size that will fill the screen when viewed on an iPad.

The interactive image

This is a neat little trick to get interactivity into a single image. Put the widget on the page and size it up ready for adding your picture. Drag the image you want to work with from the Finder. Set the default view for the image which is probably going to be a wide view. iBooks Author gives you two interactive labels to start with. You’ll use the labels to set where you want to zoom into. Change the zoom level and the positioning of the picture within the widget and then add a button label. Do this with as many labels as you need to to draw the attention of your reader to specific areas within the picture. The way to set this up is intuitive. It won’t take you long before you’re an expert using interactive images ready for you to self publish your book.

Interactive images

Interactive images

The popover widget

The popover widget will sit in your page in your self published book and when the reader taps on that image a little pop-up will display. The pop-up can display text and images. As per usual you just drag and drop the image into the placeholder in the widget. Double tap on the widget to bring up the pop-up box ready for you to type in your text or to drag and drop your picture into it. The initial picture you put into the widget could be a button or a picture with text in it to let people know they will get more information by tapping on that area of the page. Another nice touch of interactive discovery to help you self publish your book with iBooks Author.

Popover Widget

Popover Widget

Scrolling sidebar widget

This works in a similar way to the popover widget. In this one you add text to a defined section on the page. Because the text scrolls within this box you are able to add more text than will show initially. You may also drag in images and set the text to wrap around, just the same as with the main body of text. What you may have to consider with this scrolling sidebar widget and also with the pop-up widget is having some sort of visual clue for the reader. Otherwise how will the reader know that there is more information to be found on the page hidden behind these widgets. You could have an information page at the beginning to show the reader there are elements with a specific look or format which do extra things. It’s also possible to have a title and/or a caption. You don’t necessarily have to have the title saying ‘scrolling text box’, you could just have the title set as the label style Interactive. One way to let the reader know what is what in the book.

Scrolling sidebar widget

Scrolling sidebar widget

Three-dimensional illustrations in a widget

If what you are trying to explain will benefit from having a three-dimensional image, you may do that with iBooks Author. The main difficulty behind this is getting the three-dimensional image to add to your self published book. You’ll need to have the ability to create three-dimensional images yourself using applications like Blender. The other possibility is to find a three-dimensional image perfect for your book that somebody has made already and is available to download. Self publish your book with 3D images you can interact with. There are one or two different formats for these three-dimensional images so just make sure you’re getting the right type to add to this widget.

A widget for HTML elements

There’s an application called Hype which allows you to create HTML 5 animations. It’s a fantastic application to use to add extra interactivity to webpages. Use it when you self publish your book with iBooks author and need something a little bit more customised. With this widget it basically means that the sky’s the limit for adding whatever you want to your book. It’s probably possible to do a search to find examples of HTML code people have used to add into iBooks Author projects already. See the video later in the article about using Hype.

A widget for textbooks

If when you self publish your book it is destined to be used as a textbook for educational purposes, consider the review widget. You’ll be able to ask a question and the reader can choose from a set of answers. Useful if you need to make sure the readers have understood fully the lessons of that chapter. The multiple choice answers can be in text or as pictures. There’s also the option to drag and drop labels onto a picture in order to answer the question. In terms of a learning experience a review test in this way is an excellent idea. It’s certainly a lot more interesting than the old style of education with paper and pencils.

Charts and tables

You never know when you might want to add a chart into your iBooks Author book. There is an icon in the menu bar at the top of the application for you to add a chart with two clicks. One to activate the drop-down and one to choose which type of chart you want. There are plenty of types to chose from, pie charts, bar charts and a variety of others. Once you have the chart in your document you can then edit the numbers and the look of it. In the inspector you’ll find buttons to edit the data and to change the colours. It’s even possible to change the view of the chart in 3-D space. Do some really fancy things with your chart in the settings. With a pie chart, select one of the wedges and in the inspector move the slider to explode the wedge out from the centre of the pie chart. If you don’t have one of the wedges selected then all of the wedges will explode out from the centre of the pie chart. Some of the adjustments for the charts can be made in the extra toolbar at the top of the application under the icon bar.

Charts and Tables in iBooks Author

Charts and Tables in iBooks Author

One click on the icon is all it takes to add a table to your document. Then all you need to do is to add the text or numbers to your table. If you’re working with numbers you do have some limited spreadsheet type functions available. You might have a column full of numbers and you want to add a sum at the bottom. No problem, that’s very easy to do with the tables in iBooks Author. Good to have these options when you want to self publish your book to the iBooks Store.

Flowing the text on your pages

When adding chapters, sections and pages when you’re going to self publish your book using iBooks author, you’ll usually find the text will flow from page to page. This is because the layout of the page will have had a text box added which automatically has a connection to a text box in the following page. Text you paste in on the first page of your chapter or section will flow through onto pages which get added to take the amount of text you’ve just pasted in. The only time this doesn’t happen is when you’ve chosen to add a page with a blank layout. The blank layout allows you to have a page different from the rest of the pages within that template. you make it up as you go along adding text boxes, images and whatever else you need. You’re looking to have a page which stands out from the crowd so start with a blank canvas.

Flowing text from text box to text box

In one of these blank pages you should be able to create a series of text boxes which would have the text flowing from the first one, to the second one and so on. I tried to make this happen and for the life of me it seemed impossible. Menu items which should have created a connected text box were greyed out. In the end I had to go to the Apple website and look in the iBooks Author questions. It can be done, but you have to create a layout first in the layout section over to the left-hand side of the application. The easiest way to start is to choose one of the page layouts already there and duplicate it. You then remove any elements you don’t want and start adding your text boxes and shapes. It is only possible to connect text boxes together for the text flow. This is despite the fact it’s possible to put text inside shapes.

After adding your first text box you’ll need to go to the Inspector and choose the layout panel. This is the second one in from the left in the icons at the top of the Inspector window. With the text box selected put a check mark in the box – Editable on pages using this layout. There is a drop-down just below that and you should choose body from the list. Now you will gain the ability to connect from one text box to the next.

Self Publish your book Getting the text to flow

Getting the text to flow

You will then see in the bottom right-hand corner of the text box on the side, a small square with a blue triangle inside. Tap on that small icon and you will see a information box telling you what to do next. One click anywhere on your page will give you a text box to resize and position exactly where you want it. The other option is to click and drag to position the text box as you are making it. When you’ve finished setting up your layout for the page don’t forget to click on the red button Apply Changes in the layouts panel.

Using your new layout with text flow between boxes

Either add a new page or select a page you already have, then choose the new layout you’ve just created. There’s nothing to stop you from making more changes on the actual page with the text boxes of that layout. If you are at the last page you may still add another text box to the end of the chain. Click on that same icon as you used in the creation of the layout to add your extra text box.

Use Hype to enhance your iBooks Author



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How to arrange and design your chapter

So you’ve created your chapter and added the body of text for that chapter. Next, you want to add your pictures, movies, audio, extra shapes or widgets to the chapter. It’s best to start from the beginning of the chapter and go one page at a time. This is because when you add an image onto a page it will affect how the text flows onto the following pages. Even if you anchor the extra items to a specific place within the text you will still probably need to make adjustments if you add things earlier in the chapter. Just one of the tasks you have to do to Self Publish your book.

Use positioning and the size of the extra items so that the pages look good. Don’t have it so you have a headline and just a couple of rows of body text underneath it at the bottom of the page. It’s better to make the picture or the widget larger so the new headline starts on a new page. Don’t forget to set up the headline so the paragraph following will stick to it.

Markdown to iBooks Author

When you’re writing in a markdown editor with the standard markdown syntax, each paragraph is separated with an empty paragraph. This is so when you get your text exported out of the editor it works out okay in HTML or whatever format. If you’ve copied in a section of text direct from the editor and these empty paragraphs are still in place, then you should delete them. Adjust the spacing between paragraphs in iBooks Author using the text panel in the Inspector. There are all sorts of spacing adjustments you can make including the space before and after each paragraph. The same tab in the Inspector is where you set up the line spacing and the character spacing. Go through all of these steps and double check after that and you will be ready to self publish your book and sell in the iBooks Store.

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